Social-Emotional Developmental Competencies in a Multicultural Context

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Gokiert
Co-Investigators: Winnie Chow (CUP); Evelyn Derus, (CUP); Carole Anne Hapchyn (University of Alberta); Jane Hewes (MacEwan University); Yvonne Chiu (Mulitcultural Health Brokers Co-op); Cheryl Wiskeyjack (Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society).
Funders: Women and Children's Health Research Institute (WCHRI) and Norlien Foundation
Duration: 2009-2011

The importance of Social-Emotional (SE) competence for young children has gained deserved attention in the literature. For children and families who are marginalized by poverty, disability, language and cultural differences, there is a need to develop an additional set of SE competencies in order to have healthy outcomes. Since all Canadian families are situated within a multicultural context, children's development occurs in multiple cultures. There is an absence of literature and current screening and assessment tools that investigates and measures early child development within a multicultural context. This research will identify common and unique competencies measured by SE measurement tools that are required for the healthy development of children living within a multicultural Canadian context. By understanding intercultural SE competencies such as resiliency and acceptance of differences, this has the potential to support a more cohesive Canadian society.

The purpose of this study was to engage in intergenerational research with newcomer, 1st and 2nd generation Canadians, and Indigenous youth and parents to identify social-emotional competencies that mitigate the healthy development of their children who navigate multiple cultures.

In partnership with the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, the following research questions were examined:

  1. What are the most common social-emotional constructs measured by early childhood screening and assessment tools?
  2. Are there additional social-emotional competencies that promote later life successes in children who live in multiple cultures in Canada?
  3. If additional constructs are identified, how can items be developed to enhance the existing screening and assessment tools that are used within a Canadian context?

This community-based research study used a mixed methods approach to examine the social-emotional development of children from birth to six years within a multicultural context. With successful knowledge sharing activities, service providers can take the learning's from this study and begin to shape intervention and instructional practices to reflect the competencies identified in tools. In the long term, this study will provide the foundation for building a program of research aimed at examining how to screen/assess development within a multicultural context and develop programming that can enhance the healthy outcomes for all children living in Canada.

Read the paper published in the The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(4), 1-19.